We continue our series of insight to the various parts and accessories we use on our motorcycle fleet. In this post we will provide some information on the most needed set of protective equipment – crash bars and skid plates.
As with most accessories and parts, we have tried and tested various models of different manufacturers in the past years, before recently settling for what we see as the best of the best on the market.
We equipped our fleet with the crash bars and skid plates of the Canadian company named Outback Motortek. While well known in North America, many might not have heard of them – yet.
They offer and extremely well thought and extensively tested option when it comes to motorcycle protection. Suffice to have a look at their website and their crash tests to see they are taking things seriously (you can find many examples at https://outbackmotortek.com/)
As usual, it is very important to highlight that we are not paid to advertise any of the brands we write about, nor did we receive any payment or sponsoring for the reviews or the use of products. Over the years, we have purchased and tested various brands and while some are better than others in terms of quality, they all have the same downside – especially when it comes to protecting the valve covers of the R1200GS/R1250GS.
We have had products from BMW, Touratech (the two most pricy ones), Givi and SW Motech. We have used the latter for a long period, as the price/quality ratio is the best on the market, but even their set-up leaves the covers vulnerable in case of a sideways fall.
When sliding on flat tarmac, BMW, TT and SW Motech products all perform well. They will grind down to different level, but will show little sign of distortion and will protect the valve covers, screws and gaskets. Givi is a the weakest of all as experience shows. Their thin wall is prone to distortion and the holding screws are weak. On occasion, they will break in the engine block, especially on the bigger bikes, like the R1200GS.
The weakness shows when heading off-road. On our tours, we face various terrain types, from rocky riverbeds, gravel tracks, sand, you name it. Most of the riders joining our tours are experienced, so luckily we do not have big offs and very few accidents. Actually, most falls occur at slow speed or at standstill. On rocky terrain or in gravel, the bike leans over and ends up on the hand guard and crash bar. When the terrain is flat, that is seldom an issue, but as we know, the terrain is rarely flat off-road, so rocks and stones scratch and dent – sometimes even punch – the valve cover. As a side result, the gasket will be compressed or some of the holding screws will bend and start to leak oil. The result is a hit on our customer’s wallet as these parts need changing.
That is where Outback Motortek and their protection excel. On the R1200GS/R1250GS, the crash bars provide stunning protection at both high speed and standstill falls. Their welded plated on the side of the bars ensure that rocks or other items do not touch the valve covers, thus saving money but also time spent on repairs. The construction also ensures that the bike is well protected. Although they do their own crash tests, we also can ascertain from experience, that their equipment holds the ground.
Another good thing is that you can change a single element in case you don’t like the look of a scratched crash bar (which we always do). At BMW, you can also purchase each side separately but the cost is very different. TT and Motech will sell you the whole protection set (at least in Morocco) and you will end up paying more for a simple replacement.
Some say the downside of the Outback Motortek product is that you have to dismount the bars and the skid plate for servicing. Well, yes and no. If you just want to change a spark plug, no need to take them off as you can get access while they are on (we’ve done it). You’ll need to take the skid plate off to change the oil as they do not have a drain hole, but then again, we always take off the skid plates when servicing the bikes. Gives you the opportunity for a better inspection, thorough cleaning and will avoid getting the inside of your skid plate full of oil (yeah, don’t tell me you can drain the oil cleanly on any bike), which will then attract dirt, dust and sand.
For valve clearance check or other major servicing, you need to take off the bars for sure, but you’ll definitely need to take off all of them, so no real change here.
Again, the above is based on our experience and based on our usage of the bikes. If you only ride tarmac, get the bars of your choice. If you take your bike off-road, especially the big boxer, then we highly recommend OM products. They rock!
For those who never fall, well… wait and see ?